Madison Edgewood relishes program debut in first City boys tournament
Madison Edgewood middle blocker Wallace Schmotzer didn’t know what to expect when his team took the court for the first time as a program on Thursday night at Madison Memorial.
The 6-foot-6 middle blocker wound up pleasantly surprised.
The Crusaders didn’t win any matches at the first City boys volleyball round-robin tournament, which involved all five Madison high schools and was won by host Madison Memorial — undefeated in its four matches during the five hours of competition.
But the Crusaders showed improvement throughout their four matches, falling in the third set against Madison La Follette in their final match (the teams played best-of-three).
“It was great,” Schmotzer said. “We did way better than I expected. For a new team, I’m impressed with how much we’ve improved. For having only six practices, we did really well.”
The Crusaders have nine players on varsity (no seniors) and nine on junior varsity, which coach Karl Hubbard called a good starting point for the program. Sophomore Chase Korb has the most experience, having played club volleyball.
“We looked really good,” Hubbard said. “It’s a process. I describe us as a big athletic freshman team right now because we don’t have much experience outside of Chase.”
Hubbard said the Crusaders learned a lot in their opening two-set losses to Madison West, Madison Memorial and Madison East before falling to La Follette 22-25, 25-17, 16-14.
“We played four straight hours,” Hubbard said. “I think we ran out of gas in that last game. I’m proud to take a good team like La Follette to three (sets).”
Schmotzer played volleyball in seventh and eighth grade, but this is his first year in high school returning to the sport.
“I very much enjoy this,” Schmotzer said. “I enjoy the community it creates.”
Memorial coach Steve Collins also very much enjoyed that his Spartans, the Big Eight Conference runners-up last year, began their season sweeping to victory in their four matches.
“We have a lot of experience coming back,” Collins said. “When you have lots of experience, it helps. I think our passing has been as good as it’s been in a very long time.”
The Spartans — led by senior middle blocker Colin Kennedy, senior outside hitter Josh Barth and junior setter Drew Collins — opened with a 25-11, 25-14 victory over La Follette, then dispatched Edgewood 25-11, 25-8. Kennedy, however, suffered a left ankle injury in the Spartans’ third match against Madison East. But Memorial pulled out a 25-18, 25-22 victory over East, which was led by hitter Sam Heiman and setter Carson Tomony and went 3-1 to finish in second place during the tournament.
Memorial finished with a 25-21, 25-15 victory over West (2-2), directed by first-year coach Jaime Vareka.
“I was just proud of how the team stepped up after Colin hurt his ankle in the third match,” Barth said, adding: “We had great energy. This team is such a close-knit group. The other middles were ready to step up and they had some big blocks.”
Middle blockers Cooper Lundal and Nic Braico filled the void when Kennedy was sidelined.
“Cooper and Nic really stepped up,” Steve Collins said. “It’s the ‘next man up.’ That’s what I told them. That’s the way I’ve coached the last 30 years.”
Senior Jack Krumbach, a first-team all-conference outside hitter last season for the volleyball team and a Xavier University baseball recruit, decided not to come out for volleyball this season, Collins said. But the Spartans played well together Thursday.
“Our goal is to make a run to get to state this year, something this program hasn’t done before, and to win a conference championship,” Barth said. “It has been 14 years since Memorial last did that (in 2003-04).”